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3 Stories in One

The certified arborist surveys the 16 tall oaks on our property in Florida and pauses at one: “I don’t like the looks of that tree,” he warns. “Its bark looks splotchy and the ground around it feels spongy.” He taps near the root with his steel-toed boot. “Do ya hear that. It sounds hollow.” Every homeowner wants to hear a hollow tree sound. Right?

Most of Jacksonville is flat, but our property is situated on a hill with magnificent live oaks, most of which can live for centuries. But laurel oaks have far different life spans of 60 – 80 years. The twin to this laurel oak tree laid itself down to rest about 1½ years ago the day after Christmas beside our house grazing only a small corner of the roof. Minimal damage then. We were so fortunate.

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Squint to see guy atop tree

Squint to see guy atop tree

“I’d take this one down right away unless you want it to carve a canyon in your house.” He points to the second-floor master bedroom in harm’s way. Now willing to exchange the thousands of dollars for tree removal for the tens of thousands of house repairs or a tragic death, we schedule tree surgery. That’s when we meet the tree guys. In the pecking order of blue collars, tree people probably rank below plumbers and electricians. The older ones methinks even look like trees, gnarled and burly. The younger ones are wiry, muscular, all highly coordinated.

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The most talented one to mount our tree has teeth that look like they’ve been pushed into his gums by a cartoon dentist, but talented he is: balancing his body expertly at 80 feet, adjusting cords with perfect tension between himself and the ground crew, judging the exact angle to make the incision. They get the job done with no casualties. Finishing up, they haul off the boulder logs, rake the droppings, reconstitute my bird bath with finesse. Praise be to the tree guys!

Praise be to the Creator of trees:

We fly from Florida to California for a change of scenery, exchanging live oaks and pines of Jacksonville for the cedars and eucalyptus of the Monterey peninsula, Florida heat and humidity for day-time temperatures in the mid 60s.

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Marvelously fashioned by the Creator God as well, cedar trees on the Pacific coast exude the fragrance of the hope chest from my girlhood, and the pungent eucalyptus, a balm for respiratory problems.

Eucalyptus Tree,  Pacific Grove, CA

Eucalyptus Tree, Pacific Grove, CA

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not whither, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.   Psalm 1:3

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Uh oh, what happened next . . . ?

We spot some explorers on the rocks of the bay. “That looks like fun,” I think. My shoes are sturdy and the rocks jutting out into the bay seem dry. But things go south fast. The next thing I know, I’ve gone topsy-turvy in a twisted side-ways posture onto a huge rock. The first thing I think of is the Medic Alert commercial, “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” No, that’s a lie. It’s the second thing. The first thing I think of is “Have I broken any nails?” Well, I have, but now I see a skinned knee with hands oozing blood. Slowly, I hoist myself up and gingerly pick my steps back to the car for band-aids.

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The tree guys, precariously suspended between heaven and earth, were trained and experienced, knew the dangers, and had back up in case of a mis-step. But not me. I saw the warning sign, ignored it, imagining I could beat the odds. My gamble did not pay off this time, so I suffered the consequences.

Praise be to the tree guys! And to the Creator of gorgeous scenery. And to lessons learned the hard way.

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